Disabled on GOP hit list?

Monday’s House Republican move to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics—in secret and before the 115th Congress even officially convened—confirmed some of our worse fears. The party now believes, or at least will act as if it believes, it has a mandate to slash civil liberties and burn the socioeconomic safety net with lightening speed.

disabled-450.jpgMillions stand to lose health insurance—and really, healthcare at all—with the planned evisceration of the Affordable Healthcare Act and Medicare. Women will lose reproductive choice, racial minorities and immigrants stand to lose just about everything, and religious minorities may even find themselves lining up to register.

Another group also stands to lose all it has gained over the past few decades, but so far has received less attention: the disabled.

Nearly one in five Americans has a disability, and half of them are severe, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And while publicly dumping on the disabled is frowned upon by even the most callous anti-spending Republicans (unless you are the president-elect), quietly gutting programs and laws that give parity to the disabled (such as 2015’s assault on Disability Insurance) has been on their agenda for years.

It needs to be on our radar now.

Ten percent of Sussex’s County’s population, and almost 8 percent of its working-age adults (21-64) are considered disabled.

Aside from taking away healthcare from millions of disabled people, including potentially shuttering the VA system that cares for disabled veterans, the new Republican triumvirate has made it clear they will do their best to avoid spending money on social programs, and also destroy regulations that interfere with businesses making every penny of profit possible. One of those is the 26-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act.

Accommodating the disabled, as consumers and as workers, makes good business sense in the long run, but in the short term, modifying buildings to accommodate the physically disabled costs money. Modifying workplaces so that qualified employees with disabilities can function productively costs money.

Republicans and their business backers are all about the quick buck.

And the disabled are a perfect population to target for “savings”: They are in the minority, not a monolithic group, require comprehensive health care, and are in that favorite Republican scapegoat group: people who use government resources.

Given its history, stated objectives and blatant moves to operate with as little transparency as possible, the Republican-dominated Congress needs to be watched especially carefully when it comes to disability rights and benefits, or they could disappear before we even notice.